TEANECK, N.J. – The NJSL League Cup draw pitted Hakoah as the away team against NJ Division newcomers HFC Dragons in the opening round of this year's knockout tournament, but the sky blues displayed their home form in an impressive 5-1 win. No doubt this had something to do with the fact that the match was played in the familiar surroundings University Stadium in Teaneck.
Hakoah controlled the game by winning the midfield battle through the leadership of Phil Robinson, but it was the forward tandem of Jonah Silk and Saeed Sulemana-Baba and a very composed performance by the Hakoah backline that sealed the deal.
The forward line signaled its attacking intent early, as less than five minutes into the match, Silk floated a speculative ball into the middle that Sulemana-Baba managed to take down and fire at the goal, rattling the outside of the bar. The two had their first breakthrough by the 7th minute, when Silk's corner kick picked out Sulemana-Baba at the far post. The prolific striker volleyed the ball into the turf, and it bounded past the HFC goalkeeper to put Hakoah a goal ahead.
Unable to keep much possession in the center of the park,HFC attempted to utilize quick counterattacks down the flanks to get back into the game. Niv Nahar and Mike Cabal dealt with the threat ably, with help from center backs Mathieu Gouverneur and Eyal Yechezkell.
In the 40th minute, Cabal turned the tables on HFC, neatly dispossessing an opponent and launching a counterattack of his own. The Hakoah defender carried the ball out of his own half, and found space in front of him, and galloped down the field. As an HFC defender came forward to challenge, Cabal sprung Sulemana-Baba with a perfectly weighted ball that the striker calmly slid past the onrushing keeper to stretch the lead to two goals before halftime.
The second half started very similarly to the first half. First, in the 49th minute, Sulemana-Baba and Silk combined again to create a chance, and this time it was Silk whose attempt hit the post. HFC was a little less fortunate, however, as the rebound caromed off the goalkeeper and across the line to make it 3-0 for Hakoah.
Silk declined to rely on luck the next time Sulemana-Baba presented him with a prime goalscoring opportunity about a quarter hour later. He thundered a first time shot low and into the corner that gave the keeper no chance and the sky blues a comfortable 4-0 lead.
The one-sided scoreline did not prevent a bit of controversy. The referee issued several yellow cards and made his biggest mark on the game in the 67th minute, when he cautioned Hakoah goalkeeper Carlos Canizales and awarded a penalty kick after HFC's brawny #13 toppled over in the box. It appeared that he went to ground after the ball skittered away, robbing him of a scoring chance but the referee adjudged that Canizales had brought the player down. He converted the ensuing spot kick, preventing Canizales from recording the clean sheet but failing to turn the tide of the game.
Hakoah continued to press forward, and Lennox Brown nearly set up Sulemana-Baba for another goal with a defense splitting ball. The deflected shot trickled over the line but the referee ruled that Sulemana-Baba had shoved the defender who made a last ditch effort to clear the ball.
Sulemana-Baba managed to complete his hat trick several minutes later, capping the scoring with a nice individual effort to send Hakoah into the second round in convincing fashion..